Ideas and Musings

The Problem of Hope

Hand holding the word "Hope"

I’m a software tester. For me to fulfill my duty and obligation to my company, I need software to test. It’s kind of a requirement.

We got a new CEO and thing have been changing. For one thing, there is a new focus on getting things in the backlog done. It’s a whirlwind of activity. They are calling it “Swarming.” You know, like locusts. Everyone is swarming all over it.

Everyone but me.

I don’t have access to customer sites, or the production servers. I can’t fix bugs. And even if I did, I don’t want to swarm like that. I have entirely too much information about the 2 products I’m already testing in my noodle. I’m very protective of my noodle.

I had no idea when all this swarming was going to end. I was driving me out of my mind! Any day it could be over, and they would give me stuff to test. Anyday!

It felt like a water torture. You know, where you’re held down and there is a drip above your forehead. Every so often, a drip hits your forehead. The problem is not the drip itself. It’s the not knowing when the next drip is coming. In a minute? An hour? Tomorrow at 5pm? Next Year? That not knowing, but knowing it WILL come, is the torture.

That’s the spot I found myself in.

It’s really hard to plan things to do when I might be pulled back in at any moment. I did what I could but it was taking a toll on me.

Now, I’m sure that there was some mention about how long this swarming was going to take. But I really wanted new code to come to me so I can test it.

I really wanted the new code. I wanted the swarming to be over. I wanted to get back to business as usual.

I was in the thrall of Hope.

Anatomy of Emotions

For this discussion, I’m going to use the “Wheel of Emotions.” The Wheel of Emotions is a way to break down and organize emotions.

There are seven basic emotions:

  • Surprised
  • Bad
  • Fearful
  • Angry
  • Disgusted
  • Sad
  • Happy

Each of these expands to more specific emotions. For example:

  • Surprised
    • Startled
    • Confused
    • Amazed
    • Excited

And, each of those expand to even more specific emotions.

  • Confused
    • Disillusioned
    • Perplexed

When you think about what you’re feeling, you can get very specific. And depending upon what you’re feeling, you can get an idea of whether you will act on it.

Passive vs. Active Emotions

With each emotion, you can make a prediction about whether that emotion is going to help you achieve your goals.

Each emotion has an energy to it. It can either push you forward or keep you where you are.

Let’s look at the Confused example.

  • Confused
    • Disillusioned
    • Perplexed


Let’s say you are disillusioned. What is disillusion? According to Google, disillusion is defined as:

“disappointment resulting from the discover that something is not as good as one believed it to be.”

The thing, action, person, whatever, sucked. There’s nothing you can do about it. You just sit there in your pain.

When you are disillusioned, you are experiencing a passive emotion. It does not spur you on to action.


Take the same situation that made you disillusioned but this time, instead of being disillusioned, you’re perplexed.

What do you think happens?

If you’re perplexed, you’re asking yourself question. “Why did this happen?” “What was my part in it?” “What can I do to change it?” and more…

Being perplexed is an active emotion. I can spur you on and help you make the situation, whatever it is, better for yourself.

Active is better than Passive

Active emotions get you going. You have agency in your life. You work to find the things you need to do or acquire to make your situation better.

Passive emotions keep you in your seat.

If I’m feeling the pride of success, is it time to relax? Or am I being spurred on, in that moment, to achieve more?

If I feel withdrawn due to distancing myself from my anger, am I resolving the issue that caused the anger?

If I’m feeling apathetic because of the boredom of my life, does that make me go out and find something fun to do?

No, to all of it.

Each emotion has a weight, in varying degrees, of being active or passive.

Once a person gets mired in a passive emotion, it’s hard to get out of it because there is no direct action that can be taken from that emotion. Something needs to change first.

Hope is Passive

The lineage of Hope is: Happy->Optimistic->Hope.

According to the Wheel of Emotions:

  • Happy
    • Optimistic
      • Hope
      • Inspired


Think of how we use Hope:

  • Will he plan a wonderful Valentine’s Day?
  • Will I be chosen for the promotion?
  • Will he call me?
  • Will I survive this terrorist attack?
  • Will the software code come in tomorrow?

All of this is sitting around waiting for something outside ourselves to happen.

It’s a form of wishful thinking.

Hope keeps us in our seats. Many religions and cults use Hope to keep us in our seats. As long as we stay passive, we can be controlled. We don’t have agency in our lives. We put up with a lot of bull crap hoping that things will get better. But we don’t do anything about it.

Not until we change the way we feel and get…


When you quit hoping for something to happen, you open the door for Inspiration. You now have choices. You have agency in your life.

  • I will tell him where I want to go to dinner on Valentine’s Day, and ask him to make the reservations.
  • I will network and do what I have to do to get that promotion.
  • I’ll call him.
  • I’ll ask my manager when the swarming is going to over.

And the terrorist attack of 9/11? Of the four hijacked planes, only one had people who could make the change from hoping it was going to turn out okay, to releasing hope and being inspired to bring down that plane and save many lives.

Hope is one of the most insidious emotions we can have.

A Week Ago

A week ago, I finally released the angst of hoping that the software code would come in so I could test it, and just asked my manager when it was coming in.

He told me that they had about 2 more months of swarming to do.

Two months! I about lost my mind.

But it freed me up too. I could plan for 2 months. I set up a document with everything I want to get accomplished and started working on that.

Hope was out the window.

It felt so good to be inspired toward action rather than being paralyzed with hope that things were going to change soon.

Of course, a couple of days later, some software code came in for me to test!

How did I feel about that?